New Release! Q&A with Molly Ringle on her new book All the Better Part of Me

Okay y’all, first things first: WordPress has apparently updated how we write posts, and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to make that cover image (above) smaller, even though I’ve tried a few times! And I can’t figure out a lot of things, frankly, and WordPress is the least of them.

But what I can figure out is that my friend and fellow Seattle author Molly Ringle has a new book out! Molly is a fantastic writer with a mind like the TARDIS: that is, it’s bigger on the inside. What do I mean by that? I mean, it seems to have endless corridors and mazes and you could get lost exploring in there and never get tired of it. Her books tackle a wide variety of topics from controversial to spooky to romantic to fun. She clearly just enjoys the process of writing. I think of her as a “writer’s writer.” Writing seems so easy to her. She just knows how to get it done.

Anyway, when she told me she’s got a new book coming out, All the Better Part of Me, I asked her to do a Q&A so we can all take some time exploring her mind together! Read on, and see the end of this post for a ton of links. There is no excuse for not finding out more about Molly!

Pam Stucky: Hi, Molly! Thanks for joining us today!

Molly Ringle: Thank you for hosting me! I’m delighted to get to talk about this book today.

PS: Tell us about the plot and/or themes of this book. What’s it about?

MR: It’s a contemporary love story about a 25-year-old actor named Sinter who comes to terms with his bisexuality when he realizes he’s falling for his gay best friend Andy. Given Sinter has conservative parents and is an only child, along with the other complications that land in his lap, he finds himself in quite a tangle.

PS: What sparked the idea for this book? What made you want to write this particular book?

MR: This book started long ago, over twenty years ago. Sinter was a side character in an early novel I wrote, and he intrigued me – his goth fashion sense, his love for theatre, his ambiguous sexuality. At the time, I was in college in the 1990s, and was just getting introduced to LGBTQ literature and was meeting the first “out” people I ever knew. The whole topic fascinated me, as a student of anthropology and as a lover of romance. So, wanting to explore that side of Sinter’s personality, I tried writing a spinoff novel from his point of view. That early draft had too many structural problems, so I shelved it for a long time, and came back to it occasionally to try rewriting it. In 2016 I took it up again, since I’d been pondering how society had improved for LGBTQ people in many ways – e.g., national legalization of same-sex marriage – but still had a long way to go in others. I wrote this story to say, “I see you and love you” to all the people who still, in the twenty-first century, have homophobic parents (or friends or coworkers) and have to agonize over coming out. But I also had fun with the story. I wanted to write a humorous, sweet, sincere romance, and that’s how it basically turned out.

PS: What were some of the challenging parts of writing this book?

MR: It’s from the point of view of a 25-year-old bi man working in theatre and film, and I am none of those things, so there was certainly research to be done and beta readers to consult to make sure I wasn’t getting anything offensively wrong. Luckily my LGBTQ friends, friends of younger age, and friends with theatre and film experience were all fabulously generous with feedback and were patient with my blind spots, and they improved the story immeasurably. Even so, there’s no one single correct way to tell the story of someone’s coming-out or the thoughts they might have in questioning their identity, so I know Sinter’s notions (and Andy’s) are going to bother some people, since it isn’t what those people experienced themselves or the way they think it “should” go. There’s no getting around that problem, though I wish there were. On the flip side, I’ve been very relieved and cheered to hear from people who tell me that Sinter’s experiences do closely resemble their own! 

PS: Talk to me about the title, All the Better Part of Me. How did you come to that title?

MR: The book was called Dramatically Inclined before this (and it had a couple of other titles before that), but my editor at Central Avenue Publishing wasn’t completely sold on the title and asked me for other ideas. Given Sinter’s an actor, and Shakespeare is accordingly mentioned many times in the book, I combed through the early sonnets in search of a good phrase and found sonnet 39, which begins:

O! how thy worth with manners may I sing,
When thou art all the better part of me?

The first 126 sonnets (including that one) were dedicated to the “fair youth,” a mysterious young nobleman Shakespeare was clearly attached to, to judge from his poetry. This has led to much speculation that Shakespeare was bi, a possibility that’s mentioned in my novel. To call a romantic interest his “better part,” especially when that romantic interest is another man, was thus a good fit. Aside from that interpretation, Sinter, like most protagonists, has to identify and bring forth all the better parts of himself in order to find happiness by the end of the book, so the title is fitting in that sense too.

PS: What do you think are the better parts of you?

MR: I’ll start with the answer all parents probably have to include: my kids, who of course are their own beings and not exactly part of me, but who I did bring into the world and who do share my DNA. They are both like me in many ways, but also braver and more confident than I was at their ages, and I don’t know where they got those qualities, but I’m grateful and proud. As for my other better parts, I suppose I’d say stubbornness. It sounds strange, but it serves me well! This world wants to discourage people all the time, make them feel there’s no point to anything they do, they have no talents, they’re part of the problem. I listen to those voices sometimes, but only to the degree that I can learn something useful from them. Then I suffer a little, then my stubbornness always kicks in again and I plow ahead with the projects I know will make me happier. And they usually end up making other people happier too.

PS: Your main character is an actor, and the description of your book says that for him, “choosing the right role to play has never been harder.” Do you think we ever reach a point where we are able to fully be ourselves rather than playing a role? What stands in the way of that?

MR: Sinter’s in his 20s, and for me at least, that was a time when it was very hard to be who I was, or even to know who I was. Growing up often involves a process like that: figuring out whether you’re really pursuing what you want or whether you’re emulating someone else’s ideals, and learning to express who you are without defensiveness or shame. Some people are born with that grace and are openly themselves from day one, but for me, and Sinter, and a lot of us, it takes several years of trial and error before we settle into that type of honesty. Usually it’s fear and shame that stand in the way of being our true selves, because (as Brene Brown likes to tell us) we’re all terrified of being vulnerable and of being judged. Once we accept that it’s good to be vulnerable and that we’re allowed to ignore (and forgive) those who judge, it gets easier to be our natural selves and to be gentler toward others too.

PS: In doing research for your book, what did you find were some of the greatest misunderstandings people have about bisexuality?

MR: I don’t identify as bisexual myself, but I have relatives and friends who do, and in listening to them, as well as to complete strangers online and in books and podcasts and such, I gathered there are common problems in bi representation that particularly bother them. One is the lack of representation, for starters – “bi erasure,” many call it. A fictional character (such as Willow on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) discovers they love someone of the same sex, and converts to gayness (“gay now,” Willow reminds a friend) instead of declaring themselves bi. Or they have a same-sex romantic experience, but they dismiss it as an anomaly and insist they’re still straight (there’s a whole subset of “gay for you” romance with that feature). These types of stories help boost the related misconception that bisexuality doesn’t actually exist, that people are “really” gay or straight but are copping out by claiming they’re bi. Then there’s the stereotype that bi people are greedy and promiscuous, as if the fact that they can be attracted to more than one gender means they’ll sleep with anyone at the drop of a hat. Not true, everyone assures me. 🙂 I therefore made sure in writing about Sinter that none of these stereotypes fit him. He is genuinely bi and applies that label to himself – he has loved and is attracted to women, and learns he can feel exactly the same for men also. Nor is he particularly promiscuous; he chooses his partners rather carefully and thinks about consequences.

PS: In an ideal world, what impact or effect would this book have on our cultural dialogue and narrative?

MR: Ah, an ideal world…well, in that world, everyone who thinks same-sex relationships are just plain wrong would read this story with an open mind, realize that falling in love feels the same for gay or bi people as it does for straight people, and realize also that assuming and insisting your children can choose or change their orientation does terrible damage to them. These former haters’ hearts would expand three sizes and they’d start “thinking and voting differently” (as Sinter says, in irony, at one point). To me it’s totally perplexing that the “it’s just wrong” mindset even still exists when by now it’s clear that LGBTQ people are not doing any more harm than the rest of the population, and that intolerance is what’s doing the serious damage. But clearly we have a way to go before we reach that ideal world. If my story ends up changing even one mind for the better, I’ll be overjoyed. Meanwhile I’ll settle for it providing pleasant entertainment to anyone else for the few hours it takes them to read it!

PS: So there you go, peeps! Go check out All the Better Part of Me, then write a review for Molly because I’m telling you we authors love reviews! Below: Everything you could possibly want to know about the book and Molly. Read on, readers!

All the Better Part of Me synopsis:

It’s an inconvenient time for Sinter Blackwell to realize he’s bisexual. He’s a 25-year-old American actor working in London, living far away from his disapproving parents in the Pacific Northwest, and enjoying a flirtation with his director Fiona. But he can’t deny that his favorite parts of each day are the messages from his gay best friend Andy in Seattle—whom Sinter once kissed when they were 15. 

Finally he decides to return to America to visit Andy and discover what’s between them, if anything. He isn’t seeking love, and definitely doesn’t want drama. But both love and drama seem determined to find him. Family complications soon force him into the most consequential decisions of his life, threatening all his most important relationships: with Andy, Fiona, his parents, and everyone else who’s counting on him. Choosing the right role to play has never been harder.

About Molly:

Molly Ringle was one of the quiet, weird kids in school, and is now one of the quiet, weird writers of the world. She likes thinking up innovative romantic obstacles and mixing them with topics like Greek mythology, ghost stories, fairy tales, or regular-world scandalous gossip. With her intense devotion to humor, she was proud to win the grand prize in the 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest with one (intentionally) terrible sentence. She’s into mild rainy climates, gardens, ’80s new wave music, chocolate, tea, and perfume (or really anything that smells good). She has lived in the Pacific Northwest most of her life, aside from grad school in California and one work-abroad season in Edinburgh in the 1990s. (She’s also really into the U.K., though has a love/stress relationship with travel.) She currently lives in Seattle with her husband, kids, corgi, guinea pigs, and a lot of moss.

Buy links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/All-Better-Part-Molly-Ringle/dp/1771681675

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/all-the-better-part-of-me-molly-ringle/1130194669#/

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/All-Better-Part-Me-Molly-Ringle/9781771681674

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781771681674

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/all-the-better-part-of-me

Audiobook: https://tantor.com/all-the-better-part-of-me-jeffrey-einboden-molly-ringle.html

Molly’s social media links:

Amazon: https://amazon.com/author/mollyringle

Blog: https://mollyringle.livejournal.com/ , mirrored at https://mollyringle.dreamwidth.org/ and https://lemonlye.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MollyRingle/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2905269.Molly_Ringle

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/writermollyringle/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/mollyringle/

Tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/mollyringle/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mollyringle

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMaAQQ2JByseNARIc_G_NXw

Website: https://www.mollyringle.com/

Q&A with Greg Haddrick, Creator/Writer of Pine Gap (Netflix)

I’ll admit it. On occasion, I use this blog for a bit of self-indulgence. Such is the case here.

Recently I watched Pine Gap on Netflix—a show that is far under-hyped and under-watched. (Even Stephen King loved it! As he should! But don’t get me started on his opinion on adverbs.)

At first, I watched because Netflix suggested it to me. Then, I kept watching because it is set in Australia (specifically in the “Red Center,” or if you’re using British/Australian spelling, the “Red Centre”). My first Big Trip was to Australia and it’s been in my heart forever.

But after maybe the second (of six) episodes, I couldn’t stop watching. The cliffhangers at the end of each episode are brilliant. And the writing is superior. The acting is certainly top-notch as well (and the guy who played Obama in that Obama show is in it! And I love me some Obama!). But as a writer, especially one who is keenly interested in improving, I was intrigued.

And so, because of the amazeballness that is the internet, I was able to find and connect with the show’s creator and writer in Australia, and Q&A him. Seriously, how amazing is that?

Well, once you’ve watched Pine Gap (and read Greg’s interview, below), you’ll know that for a writer in Seattle to be able to connect with a writer in Australia is some pretty basic stuff. Pine Gap is (in real life) a Joint Defense Facility (Australia/US). The series showcases some pretty insane technological capabilities that our governments already have. Can they hear us now? Yes, yes they can. Read on. And then watch the show.

Q: Let’s start with Pine Gap (streaming now on Netflix; anywhere else?) First, can you give us a brief synopsis of the show?

A: Always hard to reduce what you hope is complex down to a synopsis(!). But the press kit said “A team of talented Australian and American intelligence analysts work together to ensure global stability in one of the world’s most important and secretive joint intelligence facilities … Pine Gap. The relationship between the Australians and Americans isn’t always rosy, and beneath the surface bubbles a clash of personalities, cultures and politics that may have grave consequences as the US and China grapple for power, with Australia caught in the middle. With a new global player encroaching, and the world inching closer to war – trust, betrayal, love and loyaltyall come into question … what do you do for the liberal world order, what do you do your country, what do you do for those you love and what do you do for yourself?”

Q: What gave you the idea for Pine Gap (the show)?

A: An amateur interest in Foreign Affairs, a similar interest in how working in the secret world of Intelligence changes people and their attitude to relationships. And I suppose a sense we could say something that might stimulate people thinking about the choices facing Australians (how do we position ourselves if America begins withdrawing from Asia?) and Americans (Do you want to pull back and share power in Asia?). those sort of questions…. but hopefully posed through personal relationships—not just geopolitical policy.

Q: For audiences who are unfamiliar with the real place the show is based on, tell us more about the actual town (is it a town? or is it an institution?) of Pine Gap?

A: Pine Gap is the name of the Joint Defence Facility which is located about fifteen miles outside of a small town in the middle of Australia called Alice Springs. It is funded mostly by America, but on Australian land, and it’s a shared base: the workforce there is pretty much 50/50 Americans and Australians. Theoretically all the signals intelligence collected there is available to both countries, and i believe in practice that’s pretty much the case, too. But alice is remote (over a thousand miles from the nearest capital cities in any direction) and the base is in a valley and inaccessible by land without security clearances. But it’s huge, fourteen radomes [editor: “a dome or other structure protecting radar equipment and made from material transparent to radio waves, especially one on the outer surface of an aircraft”] download information from dozens of geostationary satellites with antennas tuned on anything and everything from the middle east to the mid-pacific. It is run by a mixture of the us military, Australian Defence Force, NSA, CIA, NRO, ASD and ASIO.

Q: In the show, locals in Alice Springs joke about how everyone who works at Pine Gap is a “gardener”—meaning, no one will speak about what they actually do there. How do you go about doing the research for a spy agency where secrecy and confidentiality are so high? Were you allowed access, or did you do some educated guessing? Did you find some good anonymous sources? Is Pine Gap as secretive as the show implies or was that dramatic license? 

A: Pine Gap is as secretive as the show implies and we weren’t allowed anywhere near it, nor were we allowed to have any image of the real base in the show at all. Our main consultant was David Rosenberg, an American signals analyst—now retired—who had worked at the base for over a decade and could tell us anything unclassified. We did also have conversations with another half-dozen or so people who had visited or worked at the base at various times. And the “gardener” thing is real. They all pretend they’re just workers in the unclassified support sections of the base. No one admits to being an intelligence officer.

Q: There were many instances where there was some highly technical and/or scientific talk. Do you work with consultants to make sure you get the science and tech right? What is that process?

A: David Rosenberg helped enormously with that. No one’s going to admit it on the record, but off the record we’ve heard from several different sources that we were far more accurate than they expected.

Q; Are all the spy technology and capabilities in the show real? For example can spies tap into our cell phones at any time and listen in? CAN THEY HEAR ME NOW???

A: Yes, that’s absolutely real. All the capabilities represented in the show are real —and they’re just the unclassified capabilities we were allowed to know about. God knows what else they can really do! Although technically they have no authority to listen to calls inside Australia, and our satellites don’t reach to the USA—that’s covered by Buckley Air Force Base in Denver.

Q: I did some research that suggests while the primary purpose of Pine Gap (officially “Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap”) is as a US/Australian “intelligence facility,” basically for satellite tracking. However, some people suggest that the real purpose (or one of the real purposes) of Pine Gap is to investigate UFOs and aliens. (I will tell you: I interviewed Dean Haglund, one of The X-Files‘ “Lone Gunmen.” I asked him his opinions about UFOs and aliens. He basically said, if I may paraphrase, that he’s talked to a lot of people and what he’s heard has been pretty convincing.) As I was researching Pine Gap I also learned about Wycliffe Well, the “UFO Capital of Australia,” a bit north of Pine Gap. What’s your opinion on all that? Have you talked to people in or around Pine Gap about the possibility of alien/UFO research there? And is there any chance of that coming up in future seasons? A sort of X-Files Down Under? (Just FYI, I am massively in favor of an X-Files Down Under show. After all, I even wrote aliens in Australia into my MG/YA sci-fi books.)

A: Well…. A lot of people think that here, too, but I doubt it. I don’t know of course, but my best guess is these bases have enormously powerful transmitters and receivers and in some way they are connected to other arrays nearby, so it all looks spooky and alien and might even occasionally impact on or interrupt normal electrical services in Alice [Springs] and nearby homesteads—but it is all earthly at the end of the day. Just using technology the average person doesn’t know about yet.

Q: While the acting is excellent, the story would have fallen apart without a foundation of superior writing. Yet as I’m sure you are well aware, writers rarely get the recognition actors (and directors, and etc.) do. What do you think could or should be done to help people understand the core, indispensable role of the writer in the process and the industry? Is this recognition something the entertainment industry should be working on? I’m thinking in terms of, how does an industry that doesn’t place much value on writers draw in great writers? (Take this question wherever you want to take it)

A: Big question. Some writers have transcended this barrier of course (Aaron Sorkin, Vince Gilligan, Allan Ball) but they are few and far between. Fiscally responsible showrunners these days do have a high degree of creative control, which is really what you want more than recognition. Both would be nice, of course, but I’d rather choose the first and then see if the second happens or not.

Q: How do you go about writing a six-part series like this? You start, I imagine, with an idea or a question, is that right? Where do you go from there? Do you start with the end in mind, or write and see where it takes you, or other?

A: We had themes and characters and worked on each of their (a) backstories, and (b) journey through the show. But we had the basic beginning, middle and end worked out before we started detailing each episode and drafting.

Q: You co-wrote Pine Gap with Felicity Packard. How does it work to co-write with someone? Do you each write separate episodes, do you sit and write one episode together, do you plan out the whole series together first, what is the process? How do you come to consensus when you disagree on something?

A: Felicity and I have worked on the same shows together in various roles for over twenty years, but not as a “partnership.” Nonetheless we know each other’s style very well. We developed the story and “plotted” each episode together, then wrote our episodes individually. But then would swap and make notes on the other’s draft often.

Q: In this kind of story, it’s necessary to write in both real clues and red herrings. I’ve recently started writing mysteries, and this is a skill I’m still working on. Do you have all the clues and red herrings planned out before you start writing, or do you go back and weave them in once you have the whole story written?

A: About 90% were worked out. One or two occurred to us as we were writing. Although it’s not part of the “mystery,” the scene at the end of Ep 6 between Gus and his dad only occurred to me as I was actually writing Ep 6—so we just adjusted a couple of things earlier to bed that into the whole story better.

Q: Has the emergence of Netflix, Hulu, etc., made it easier for Australian writers and shows to find a global audience? Or is there now such a crowded field that everyone is scrambling for a finite amount of attention? Easier to get out there but harder to be seen?

A: Yes, “easier to get out there but harder to be seen” is a very good way of putting it. There are pathways to a global audience that Australians have never had before, but it is a crowded field.

Q: You recently created your own production company. What does that mean for you in the big picture, and what does that mean on a more micro level?

A: Still trying to figure that out myself! There are still three or four options ahead of me. Watch this space, I suppose!

Q: I read that your focus will now be for international audiences rather than only Australian. What do you do differently for an international audience than an Australian audience?

A: Well, I wouldn’t phrase it quite like that. It’s more that compared to traditional Australian FTA [free-to-air] TV networks international end-users like Netflix, Amazon, Apple, etc., have different criteria by which they assess whether to commission something. And I suppose many of the projects and ideas that interest me most at the moment are more likely to meet those criteria.

Q: I also read that your goal is to bring compelling stories to a world audience. What, in your opinion, makes a story compelling?

A: For me it’s a mix of good characters, good story and good ideas. But you need all three. If you have the first two and not the third it can be exciting but usually forgettable once it’s finished. If you have the first and third but not the second it could be a complex reflection of life—but boring. If you have the second and third but not the first it just won’t feel real. … But that’s just me.

Q: When you look back at the beginning of your writing career, what do you think you didn’t do so well that you’ve learned through practice and time? How did you go about improving?

A: Always still learning. I still tend to over-dialogue and the drafting process is always about economising for me. Can I say it in less words and keep the meaning communicable? The biggest single change I learnt early on was not to treat each scene as a little “playlet.” I always try for a structure that lets the story tumble through it rather than construct scenes that have beginnings-middles-and-ends. Hope that makes sense.

Q: By popular definition, you’ve had a great amount of success. How do you personally define success? What do you think are the keys to a good life?

A: I don’t have a ready answer for these questions! Let me get back to you on those!

Q: What is the greatest compliment a person could give you?

A: That something I’ve done or said has made them stop and think for a while…

 

Pam here again. If you haven’t already watched Pine Gap, I envy you, because you have the whole show to look forward to. It’s an interesting, intriguing, thought-provoking watch. (And if you can’t stand long seasons, it’s only six episodes.) Like Stephen King, I, too, am eagerly awaiting more! Greg, are you writing? Are you writing fast??

Thank you so much, Greg, for your time and your thoughtful answers. I really enjoyed hearing what you have to say, and as a writer, still considering myself a somewhat beginning writer, I loved your insights. I look forward to hearing more about you and your work … through non-spy-network, civilian channels, of course! By the way, that blue shirt you have on is really fetching …

Finding Joy on Acorn TV: Review

Lochlann O’Mearáin (“Human Aidan”) and Amy Huberman (“Joy”) with “Canine Aidan” in Finding Joy

A while back, when I was doing my A Place to Call Home interviews (with Marta Dusseldorp, Noni Hazlehurst, and Marta again), a gentleman named Chad who works with Acorn TV, the US home of A Place to Call Home, got in touch with me. Since then, he has become my long-distance BFF, a couple of times a year sending me updates on Acorn’s new offerings. (One of these days I’ll write a review of Agatha Raisin, which I watched with my mom. Quick review: it’s a fun, sassy, slightly slapstick show about an unlikely amateur sleuth solving murders in a quintessentially quaint English village. Watching it has been a great way to spend mother-daughter time. We’re making plans to watch the new season together. Stay tuned!)

Anyway, I digress. Recently my BFF Chad sent me an email about the latest Acorn shows, and one called Finding Joy caught my eye:

Amy Huberman (Striking Out, The Clinic) created, wrote, and stars in this quirky, life-affirming Irish comedy. Orderly, structured Joy is dealing with a messy breakup when a new work assignment forces her to look for happiness in the most unusual places. “Huberman has warm, almost effortless likeability in spades” —Independent (Ireland). Co-starring acclaimed Irish comedian Aisling Bea.

I decided to give it a go. I’ll admit that one great selling point for me was that the whole season was only six half-hour episodes. About 700 years ago I started “binging” (does “binging” apply if it’s taken 700 years??) Midsomer Murders. I think I only have 45 seasons left to go. Please send help.

Anyway, Finding Joy.

Here’s the thing about any first episode of any show, or the opening lines of a book, or the first part of anything: it can take a bit for a show or book or anything to find its stride. As I watched the opening minutes of Finding Joy, it felt a bit like it was trying too hard and I was worried I’d be disappointed. But Amy Huberman, creator and star, is instantly likable, so I stuck with it. My efforts were rewarded. The show dives into the post-breakup life of Joy (Amy) from “Human Aidan” (as opposed to her dog, “Canine Aidan”). As a replacement personality for a show-within-the-show called The Happy Hunter, Joy goes on various adventures in search of happiness. While the situations are a bit outlandish, the personal insights Joy discovers feel real and relatable—without resorting to schmaltziness. While such a premise could easily slip into cliche, Finding Joy manages, most of the time, to find the right balance between humor, honesty, and heart. It is possible that the last episode even brought a tear to my eye.

Canine Aidan talks at the beginning and end of each episode, which feels a bit gimmicky. And the last episode ends on a cliffhanger, which is just unnecessary in my opinion. If I like a show I’ll watch again. If I don’t, I won’t. Cliffhangers are just annoying. Writers, are you listening?

The show definitely has some risqué humor, so if that’s not your thing, consider yourself warned. And don’t worry, the fart jokes end after episode one.

I think, actually, that anyone who likes my Wishing Rock books (Letters from Wishing Rock, The Wishing Rock Theory of Life, The Tides of Wishing Rock) would love Finding Joy (and vice versa). (Yes, they’re my first books and sometimes make me cringe in places, but I like to think they share the wit, wisdom, and heart of Finding Joy.)

Finding Joy premieres on Acorn TV on December 3, 2018.

The official press release:

Acorn TV features the exclusive North American premiere of the newest Acorn TV Original Series FINDING JOY on Monday, December 3, 2018. Created, written and starring IFTA Award Winner Amy Huberman (Striking Out, The Clinic), the six-part Irish comedy follows a single woman, Joy (Huberman), after a painful breakup, who looks for happiness in all the wrong places. Finding Joy premiered on RTÉ in Ireland in October and is their highest-rated new comedy of 2018. The series co-stars popular stand-up comedian Aisling Bea (The Fall, Hard Sun), Lochlann O’Mearain (Outlander), Jenny Rainsford (Fleabag), Catherine Walker (Acceptable Risk, Versailles), Paul Reid (Vikings), and Mark Doherty (Moone Boy). Called a “glorious streaming service… an essential must-have” (The Hollywood Reporter), Acorn TV is North America’s most popular streaming service specializing in British and international television from RLJEntertainment. Acorn Media Enterprises, the UK-based development division for the Acorn brand, is the North American co-producer.

As the virtual world expands to compete with reality, it often feels like everyone else has found the key to happiness in a way that eludes some thirty somethings, leading to a perfect storm of existential torture. Finding Joy explores the amusing ways to seek happiness and fulfillment in these modern digital times by following 34-year-old Joy (Huberman), who is just trying to get on with her life after a recent break up from her long-term boyfriend, Aidan (O’Mearain). While she is struggling to keep up a cheerful and “in control” veneer, the cracks are starting to show. Meanwhile, her lowkey job as copy editor for a lifestyle site is uprooted as she takes over their lead lifestyle vlog, which forces Joy to try a wide variety of activities that purport to be access points to happiness and personal fulfilment. And while her style is far from slick, her vulnerability and naïve reporting style strike an honest note with her audience and Joy finds herself breaking out of her safe world in a way she never dreamed possible.

Why I don’t write characters you love to hate

Photo: Today Testing [CC BY-SA 4.0]
I’ve never understood the idea of “characters you love to hate.” Whether in fiction or real life, there’s no one I love to hate. I don’t love hating. Hating doesn’t make me feel good. Hating makes me feel awful.

That’s probably why it doesn’t really occur to me to try to write hateful characters. What I want to put into my books are complex characters. I want readers to see multiple sides of a character; I want readers to be able to understand that from the viewpoint of each character, his or her actions make some kind of sense.

And why do I want to do that? I suppose because that’s the world I want to live in, too. I want us to see each other and understand that while we may not make the same decisions as someone else, we can understand their underlying reasonings. We can see beyond the action that makes us want to hate them, and understand that given the same background, the same circumstances, we might do the same thing.

It’s dangerous to make anyone into a monster; to make people into a “they” rather than part of “us.” If we can no longer see someone’s humanity, we can no longer see ourselves.

I understand that there are people who are truly ill, who truly, as far as we know, are broken and cannot be made whole again. That’s a whole other discussion, and not one I can solve in a blog post.

But in general, people are complex. Hating people doesn’t bring us closer to understanding them. One of my favorite Søren Kierkegaard quotes is, “Once you label me, you negate me.” I would extend that to hate, as well: “Once you hate me, you negate me.” Once we’ve decided we hate someone, it’s just one more step to dismissing them entirely.

And so, while I know there are people who relish hating other people, I will never be one of them, and I will continue to challenge myself to create characters who are complex, multi-faceted. To paraphrase Walt Whitman: we are all large; we all contain multitudes.

You’ve had it inside you all along

We have a culture that more and more is working to convince us that fulfillment (of all kinds) is outside ourselves. Companies that want us to believe that our problems can only be solved externally—usually by buying something they want to sell us. Sometimes that’s fancy clothes or a new car. Sometimes that’s a pill that they want us to believe we are broken without.

I don’t believe it. I believe that we’ve been sold a bad bill of goods. I believe that many, if not all, of the answers lie within ourselves, and that we have the power and ability to find what we seek within.

The people who want us to spend our money on their products work hard to make this belief controversial. They want us to shun anyone who espouses an idea that our solutions even might be internal. They spend a lot of money to get us to spend a lot of money, and to change our view of ourselves.

They want us to feel helpless and powerless. They want us to believe we are broken without their products. They want us to give up our personal agency. And, they want us to spread these stories—the idea that we are helpless without them—amongst ourselves. They want us to do their marketing for them.

Don’t fall for it. We are stronger than they want us to believe. We are stronger than we know.

 

Midweek Matters for October 31

Aiming to inspire, engage, inform, and entertain, and to mitigate midweek malaise.

To get Midweek Matters directly in your inbox, subscribe to my mailing list here.

Midweek Reminders

You matter.
You are enough.
You are loved.
You choose your mindset.
You are not alone.

Quote of the Week

Among the themes rolling around in my head these days are the ideas of limiting beliefs and personal narratives. It’s not just books that are stories; our whole lives are stories. Our lives are not about what happens to us nearly as much as they are about the stories we tell ourselves about what happens to us. About the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, what we can and can’t do, what we will be or could never be.

As Mark Twain said, “What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. All day long, the mill of his brain is grinding, and his thoughts, not those of other things, are his history. These are his life, and they are not written.”

The above quote is from Seth Godin’s Akimbo podcast, which I’ve been listening to lately. It’s worth pondering. What if we could change our lives by telling ourselves a different story?

In a later episode of the podcast, Seth goes on to say this: “If your story isn’t helping you, find a new one…. If you’re telling yourself a story again and again and again, a story about being incomplete or insufficient, a story about unfairness, a story about having a loser’s lip, well, you don’t have to tell yourself that story. The story is a choice…. It’s the stories that we rehearse that become important. So if you’re rehearsing a story that isn’t helping you get to where you want to go, the giant learning here is to stop rehearsing that story. To start telling a new story.”

This Week’s Treasures and Inspirations

Reflections on Anger

If you’ve never heard of Brain Pickings, I highly recommend you check it out. Last week, the curator of Brain Pickings, Maria Popova, re-posted a 2015 post about David Whyte’s reflections on anger (“Poet and Philosopher David Whyte on Anger, Forgiveness, and What Maturity Really Means“).

I’ve always thought of anger as a coping strategy for fear. However, this writing offers a truly thought-provoking new perspective. David’s words struck my heart, and I’ve been thinking about them ever since (all emphasis mine):

“ANGER is the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for the body, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all, possibly about to be hurt. Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for. What we usually call anger is only what is left of its essence when we are overwhelmed by its accompanying vulnerability, when it reaches the lost surface of our mind or our body’s incapacity to hold it, or when it touches the limits of our understanding. What we name as anger is actually only the incoherent physical incapacity to sustain this deep form of care in our outer daily life; the unwillingness to be large enough and generous enough to hold what we love helplessly in our bodies or our mind with the clarity and breadth of our whole being.

“What we have named as anger on the surface is the violent outer response to our own inner powerlessness, a powerlessness connected to such a profound sense of rawness and care that it can find no proper outer body or identity or voice, or way of life to hold it. What we call anger is often simply the unwillingness to live the full measure of our fears or of our not knowing, in the face of our love for a wife, in the depth of our caring for a son, in our wanting the best, in the face of simply being alive and loving those with whom we live.

“Our anger breaks to the surface most often through our feeling there is something profoundly wrong with this powerlessness and vulnerability… Anger in its pure state is the measure of the way we are implicated in the world and made vulnerable through love in all its specifics.”

I went digging to find out more. Check out the video at The Global Oneness Project site, which shares this about the word: “Youth worker and community leader Orland Bishop explains the meaning of the Zulu greeting Sawubona (“We see you”) as an invitation to a deep witnessing and presence. This greeting forms an agreement to affirm and investigate the mutual potential and obligation that is present in a given moment. At its deepest level, Orland explains, this “seeing” is essential to human freedom.”

Anything that does not bring you alive …

What to Listen To

More Seth Godin!

In case it wasn’t obvious, I’m listening to a lot of Seth Godin lately. As I write this I’m in the middle of his interview with the You Turns podcast. Granted, the way the people sounds reminds me a little bit of the SNL Schweddy Balls skit, but the content is far better. About fear, and diving in, and imposter syndrome, and all sorts of good stuff.

What to Watch

If you liked Making a Murderer …

Did you watch Making a Murderer season 1? If so, you must dive into season 2 (on Netflix). The way attorney Kathleen Zellner investigates every aspect of the crime, recreating every bit of evidence (or discovering it can’t be recreated), bringing in top experts, and tearing apart the original narrative of the prosecution piece by piece, is incredible. She is amazing. If ever I am wrongly accused of a crime, please call her for me.

Travel Inspiration for the Week

The “Venice of the Netherlands”

From Google (I can’t find that this is from a specific website … this is just from the little box on the right of the screen when you Google “Giethoorn”): “Giethoorn is a mostly car-free village in the northeastern Dutch province of Overijssel. It’s known for its boat-filled waterways, footpaths, bicycle trails and centuries-old thatched-roof houses.”

I’m just saying. Do a Google image search on Giethoorn. Then start your planning.

Photo from Reisroutes.be

 

Photo from My Little Adventures

The Writing Update

What’s up in my writing life

Many of you may already know that I don’t believe in “writer’s block.” I think the term is nothing more than an excuse, and it would be far wiser—for a person who actually wants to succeed at writing, anyway—to think of it as “something is getting in the way of my writing and I need to figure out what it is if I want to finish this.”

That’s what I faced in the last week. I was writing along at a really fast pace, and then one day I was just struck with this “I have no idea what I’m doing” terror. The certainty that I can’t possibly succeed. Mysteries are complicated, I’ve learned; at least, they are for me. You have to figure out how many clues to leave, when to leave them, what red herrings to drag across the trail. You don’t want to leave out too much because that will annoy the reader, but you don’t want to put in too much because then what’s the point? You have to have multiple suspects, with believable motives. You have to introduce the actual murderer without making it obvious, but also while making sure their guilt remains plausible. It’s a very fine-wired tightrope and it’s scary.

What’s the remedy? Whether I practice it or not, I know how to break through the “block”—you have to just sit down and write. Push through it. Stop cleaning the house, stop doing the laundry, stop organizing all your photos from 1980, stop all the procrastinating, and write. Whether the stuff you write is great or awful, to get past that fear you have to just write. (And then edit later.)

I think many writers, especially at the beginning of their writing careers, may fall prey to the romance of the idea of writer’s block. Or to the idea that you only write when you’re inspired. I once met an aspiring screenwriter who told me, “You know you’re a real writer if you only write when you’re inspired.” I didn’t argue with him because I knew there was no point. But I guarantee you that if you interviewed a hundred professional writers, most if not all of them would tell you that only writing when you’re inspired is a luxury of amateurs.

If you want to be a writer, you have to write.

When it’s scary and you don’t know if you can do it (Pamela Stucky, I am talking to you here!), you still have to sit down and write.

That’s all there is to it. Butt in chair, as they say. Write.

The ABCs of Life

The ABCs of Life, via Little Truths Studio. I love this!

 

 

Midweek Matters for October 24

Aiming to inspire, engage, inform, and entertain, and to mitigate midweek malaise.

To get Midweek Matters directly in your inbox, subscribe to my mailing list here.

Midweek Reminders

You matter.
You are enough.
You are loved.
You choose your mindset.
You are not alone.

Quote of the Week

This Week’s Treasures and Inspirations

A podcast so good it made my heart hurt

Needing some intense self care, I went out on a long walk last week. (Pacific NW peeps: If you haven’t done the Ebey’s Landing loop trail, it’s amazing!!) On my drive there I listened to Debbie Millman’s 2017 podcast with Seth Godin. I lovedthis whole talk. As a writer and entrepreneur, it reminded me why I do what I do, what matters to me, and what I want my work to mean. But also, the last few minutes (starting at 51:53) reminded me about the courage we need in these difficult times. When I was done listening to this podcast I turned off the radio so I could just think about it in silence. What is each of us bringing to the world? Contempt is contagious … but so is courage. In which way will you show up? Which of us will be the brave person to break the cycle?

A word our souls crave to hear

After listening to the Debbie Millman podcast with Seth Godin, I was reminded how much I love Seth Godin. I went to iTunes and sought out other podcasts he’s done or been a part of. I found his new podcast, Akimbo. Episode 2 is titled  I See You. In it, Seth talks about the the Zulu word Sawubona, which means I (we) see you. Not in the sense of “I see you standing there,” but rather in a much deeper sense of “I see who you are.”

I went digging to find out more. Check out the video at The Global Oneness Project site, which shares this about the word: “Youth worker and community leader Orland Bishop explains the meaning of the Zulu greeting Sawubona (“We see you”) as an invitation to a deep witnessing and presence. This greeting forms an agreement to affirm and investigate the mutual potential and obligation that is present in a given moment. At its deepest level, Orland explains, this “seeing” is essential to human freedom.”

What to Watch

River on Netflix

I’m on a one-woman mission to get more people to watch Riveron Netflix. If you like crime dramas and shows that dive into the human psyche, this may be for you.

IMDb describes it thusly: “John River is a brilliant police inspector whose genius lies side-by-side with the fragility of his mind. He is a man haunted by the murder victims whose cases he must lay to rest.”

Is it any good? Well, it has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, if that means anything to you.

Be sure to give it at least a full episode before you decide whether to keep watching. My assessment is that the plot is actually just average, but the acting, the directing, the cinematography, and the concept are all exceptional and brilliant. Watching the main character cope (or not cope) with his loss is so poignant it’s almost painful at times.

If you’re looking for more ideas, I recently asked my peeps for more recommendations for Netflix or Amazon Prime. What did they suggest? Here’s the list, without commentary as I haven’t watched most of them.

Amazon Prime: Orphan Black, Ordeal by Innocence, Tin Star, Red Oak, The Honorable Woman, Goliath, Sneaky Pete, Bosch, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Netflix: Atypical, Ozark, Marcella, Bloodline, Occupied, Rake, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, Peaky Blinders, The Sinner, Mindhunter (I have watched; excellent; extremely creepy but mesmerizing), Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Daredevil.

Laugh of the Week

When Accidental Mass-Email Goes Very Very Right

If you’ve ever sent an email you didn’t mean to send (or, what’s worse, a mass email you didn’t mean to send), you’ll relate to this one. The photo says it all. “US Embassy Apologizes for Accidental Mass-Mailing of Invitation for ‘Cat Pajama-Jam Party’.” All I want to know is, why wasn’t I invited??

 

Introducing … Midweek Matters

Aiming to inspire, engage, inform, and entertain, and to mitigate midweek malaise.

 

Hey, peeps!

I’m trying a new thing starting this week, and I hope it will be meaningful to you.

By any definition, I’m at Midlife. (How do I insert that shocked face emoji here??) Brené Brown talks about midlife as an unraveling, which I think is accurate in every sense of the word.

As such, I’ve been voraciously listening to great podcasts and reading great books, in an effort to … well, whatever the opposite of unravel is. Re-ravel. To unravel and then reshape myself into whatever comes next.

I’ve been coming across so many great ideas, quotes, videos, words, etc etc etc, and I want to share some of what I’m discovering.

So starting this week, you’ll get from me a brief newsletter with some discoveries and inspirations that I hope will be meaningful, too. Since it’s midlife-inspired, I thought a midweek newsletter would be appropriate. So watch for it this Wednesday.

To keep it relevant, I’ll also try to update you on the not-very-exciting writing process! Mostly it’s just: sit down and write! Right now I’m a little more than halfway through the next Megan Montaigne mystery, and I’m having a blast with it. It might be my favorite book to write yet. I’ll tell you more Wednesday!

To get the discoveries and inspirations directly in your inbox, subscribe to my mailing list here.

Looking forward to sharing some inspirations with you! Have a great Monday, everyone!

Pam

Maybe you couldn’t yesterday, but maybe you can today

I’ve been thinking a lot about limiting beliefs lately—what mine are, where they came from, what I need to do to get rid of them.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve twice had situations come up in which I immediately thought, “I can’t do that.”

Normally I wouldn’t have thought to question those beliefs. I would have just moved on, never challenging my beliefs and never challenging myself.

But because I’ve had limiting beliefs on my mind, on these occasions I stopped. I questioned.

Can’t I? Am I sure? Was that ever true? Even if it was true, when was the last time I tested that belief?

Maybe I couldn’t yesterday, but maybe I could today?

In both cases, I attempted those things I thought I could not do. And, as it turns out, I could.

We have so many limiting beliefs, in every area of our lives. They may have once been true. Or maybe we tried once and were so bad at it that our brains changed “I’m not good at that” to “I can’t do that,” and then our narrative grew around that limitation.

But we are capable of so much more than we believe we are. We are stronger than we think. More resilient. We have more endurance. We are more courageous. We are smarter. We don’t give ourselves credit for the amazing beings we are.

And what’s more, accomplishing things we thought we couldn’t is an amazing feeling.

Listen to the ways you’re limiting yourself. Challenge the assumptions. Try anyway.

Maybe you couldn’t yesterday, but maybe you can today.

 

Everyone wants to be heard, but no one wants to listen

Sculpture in Old Havana, Cuba: “The Conversation.” Via Canva.com

“Everyone wants to be heard, but no one wants to listen.”

I was talking with a friend yesterday, and we were discussing how rare it is to find someone who actually knows how to listen.

Both of us often have the experience of getting to the end of a conversation and thinking, “That person does not know one thing about me.”

I think it stems from how isolated we’ve all become. People are so desperate to be heard that when a willing listener comes along, they forget to reciprocate. Or, if they listen, they do so with the goal of finding another topic they can talk about in regards to themselves, another inroad to talking about their own experiences.

But to what end? If the person you’ve just spilled out your heart and life to feels completely unheard and unseen, will they want to spend more time with you? Have you gained a friend, or just unloaded your words on someone?

Listening is an art, and one that takes patience and practice. It means asking follow-up questions and truly being engaged and interested, and, yes, occasionally, it means letting the spotlight shine on someone else. It means trying to find the entrance point to the other person’s perspective—in other words, asking questions to help you understand where they’re coming from, and where they hope to go.

Recently I went out (because I’m single and looking to mingle; or at least, I’m single) and I met a guy. Because I have not yet perfected the art of ending a conversation I don’t want to be a part of, I ended up talking to this guy for a really long time. Finally I managed to excuse myself, and he was insistent that we should exchange information because “we have so much in common.” But the fact was, he knew nothing about me. He just felt heard because I asked questions. But he didn’t return the favor; not once. Even when I’d ask a simple question, he never turned it around: “How about you? How do you feel about that?” “This is where I’m from. How about you? Where are you from?”

He left thinking we had an amazing connection. I left feeling drained.

I strongly believe that if we want something, we should find ways to give that thing. If you want kindness, for example, be kind. If you want love, be loving.

If you want to be heard, practice listening.

The people I know who most bemoan how no one hears them are also the people who do the least listening.

I’m not saying everyone should be silent and put everyone else before them. I’m saying we have lost the art of listening. Now we’re a planet of people talking at each other: serial monologues, but no actual interaction.

Listen. Ask questions. Be curious. Ask the next question, and see where it leads, and then ask another question. Of course it’s good to intersperse questions with your own stories. But make your conversations into a dance. Not merely opportunities for a personal showcase.